We’ve just interviewed laser cutting company Midtherm Laser about the UK manufacturing sector. They gave interesting insights into this robust industry and how the Midlands is a powerful nucleus for it.
Midtherm Laser is one of the contributing companies for our programme Manufacturing Excellence, which explores the technological developments within leading manufacturing companies. Midtherm Laser use the most advanced laser cutting machines to supply tailored sheet metal to numerous sectors including aerospace, construction and transport.
They put their success down to customer retention and a streamlined manufacturing process. Keeping it simple and doing it well seems to be the key, instead of aggressively targeting new business. They have a dedicated team who develop strong, working relationships with their regular 250 customers to ensure the production process runs smoothly and meets their specific requirements. Lucy Cottrill has worked her way up through the ranks and now heads up their Estimating team. She had a real passion for customer service and impressed the importance of developing rapport with her customers and being flexible to their specific needs.
Retention is a sustainable business model and has seen them expand by an impressive amount, enabling them to invest in the latest Bystronic laser machines. Having the most advanced machines also has a positive impact on the environment as it uses less electricity and nitrogen. I was impressed to hear that all off-cuts are melted down and recycled.
They also have an in-depth apprentice scheme, which lasts several years and involves continuous learning and development across the business. We interviewed Hayley Boyle, who has been on the scheme for 2 years and is keen to move into accounts when she has gained the necessary skills and experience. The company genuinely had a great working atmosphere and it was refreshing to see a manufacturing company with females in key positions throughout the company.
The Midlands really is a hot-bed for manufacturing and the reason it is called “The Black Country” is because many buildings were stained black from the smoke from factories. Thankfully Midlands’ factories no longer churn out this level of pollution but their output shows no sign of slowing down. A news report suggested that around ½ of SME’s (small-medium enterprises) were taking on new staff and ¾ of companies in the region expected to grow in the coming years.
So, the future for UK manufacturing looks to be positive and it’s nice to see it recovering well from the recent recession.
Our manufacturing excellence programme will be broadcast on Sky Channel 212 later this year. Please share this piece and check out this blog post if you’re interested in contributing to one of our programmes.
I heard Martin Scorsese being interviewed discussing how he wasn’t completely happy with Goodfellas on its general release. Whilst this sounds incredulous it shows that no one stops learning and everyone can improve. Keep challenging yourself and broadening your skillset with new projects that push you out of your comfort zone. Feeling comfortable is the worst thing that a creative professional can feel.
Trust your instincts
We all know that creeping, niggling feeling that tells us all is not well. Several years ago I kept getting this about someone I was working with on a spec project. The vagueness, extended periods of non-responsiveness and the never ending tall claims all contributed to this feeling. I ignored the feeling as I was passionate about the project. After sinking a lot of valuable time I eventually realised I should have trusted my instincts from the start.
Develop a bulls**t radar
This is an essential skill that you gradually develop over the years. A well-honed bulls**t sensor can save you months, if not years, of flogging away at a lost cause. Are you being asked to work for free but are being promised the world at a later date? Does it sound too good to be true? Are you being paid in ‘exposure’? A talented actress I know retorted to a casting director that people can die from exposure! Be careful with that.
Ask very specific questions to get to the bottom of any vague claims. What festivals will it be released in? How will you fund the entries? What festivals have you screened at before? What key talent is attached?
Most importantly of all, thoroughly research everyone connected to the project before committing to it.
Know what you’re gaining from a project
Working for free can be a necessary evil until you’re very established in the industry. If you do work for free make sure you know what you’re getting out of it. If you want new material for your show reel, make sure it’s different to your existing footage. Make sure you will be credited in the completed film. On a short film I wrote as a student I was credited, but after everyone else, including the extras!
Know your strengths and weaknesses
Be as selective as possible with your projects. Whether you’re an actress, director or a writer you need to know where your strengths lie. Challenge yourself but be careful not to take a job that won’t reflect your abilities. Taking one project that you’re not suitable for can do much more harm than good. Be honest about your weaknesses, as potential employers appreciate that. They may even be willing to buddy you up with someone more experienced. Better to be honest and not get a job, than to be dishonest and damage your reputation.
As author Will Rogers said, “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation and an instant to lose it”.
At Collaborative Media we specialise in creating documentaries centred on particular industries. We will interview several industry leading companies to get the latest developments, breakthroughs and news. Our programmes are broadcast on Sky Channel Information TV.
In addition to the programme we also produce a film that is tailored to each contributing company. These can be up to 15 minutes long, but we find shorter films are usually more effective. These can be used on our clients’ websites, and some clients send the video link out to prospective clients. The films can be effective when combined with a targeted email mailer. Many will watch a quick, engaging film, when they wouldn’t read a lengthy document.
We love working closely with our clients and many give great input throughout the production process. We’re currently storyboarding for a client who wants us to make a series of shorter films about different aspects of their business. In cases where clients want a slightly different service, one of our Production Manager’s will manage the process. This allows one of our team to work closely with the client and to direct the filmmaking team to realise their goal… We ensure we avoid the awful yet hilarious PR disasters we discussed on our blog.
The key thing with projects like this is to thoroughly research the company. You need to know their USP’s, key attitudes, what they’re most proud of, and most importantly what they want the film to achieve. When you know all of this, you’ll be on your way to producing a tailored, promotional film.
We’ll be posting these films on the blog when they’re complete.
This is held on the first Monday of every month for Shooting People members. There will be no screenings, just meet, drink and network. Meetings are held across the country at local Picturehouse Cinemas or watering holes.
This is the 3rd year that Triforce has been running and it’s a great chance to get your short film screened, whilst networking. All short films will be considered and it aims to increase diversity within shorts.
The BFI is in a wonderful location on London’s Southbank a minutes’ walk from Waterloo station. It is the host to over 2000 classic and contemporary films each year. They also present The London Film Festival next month from October 8th to October 19th.
They have a series of special screenings and Q&A’s. A few months ago they had a screening of The Double, followed by a hilarious Q&A with director Richard Ayoade.
There are also numerous networking, pitching, and filmmaking opportunities.
Membership costs £40 per year and reduces the prices of their events.
The elegant BAFTA venue in the heart of Piccadilly Circus is the venue of numerous film networking events and master classes. I went to their two-day Serious Screenwriting event. I was lucky enough to meet Simon Beaufoy, shortly after he won an Academy Award for Slumdog Millionaire. He handed me his Oscar statue and somehow I managed to break the plating on it!
I’m sure you’ll have more luck on their range of networking events and seminars. Sometimes these are free for students. Have a look at their upcoming events here.
Animate Projects is a strategic agency that champions the best of animation and provides a collection of digital archives, interviews and critical writings.
Animate runs screening events and talks in London and around the UK. If you’re interested in animation you should look at their upcoming events here.
Documentary Filmmakers Group (DFG)
The Documentary Filmmakers Group is the national organisation working to promote documentary filmmaking talent and innovation in the UK. They offer a range of training events across the country. Their annual membership is £35.
Okay this is a cheeky last one as it’s our blog. However, this is a source of useful industry advice by filmmakers for filmmakers. We offer film and business advice on everything from using Twitter effectively, to how to get filmmaking jobs. We’re always looking to connect with passionate filmmakers and if you’ve got a question we’d love to hear from you.
The talking heads style works well for our programmes as it focusses the viewers’ attention on the interviewee and what they are saying. We have our interviewer sat off screen, just to the side of the camera. This technique can be problematic if an interviewee looks at the camera. We’ve found it only works for an interviewee to look directly into the camera if they’re directly talking to the audience, or demonstrating a product.
If the camera is straight in front of the subject you can lower the camera, but it leaves the temptation for them to look down the camera. A trained actor may look slightly above and to the left or right of the camera but most interviewees aren’t trained in this.
It’s good to place the interviewee on the left or right side of the frame and have them look at the interviewer. If the interviewee is on the left side of the frame, then the interviewer should be to the right of the camera.
Ask non-crew to stand on the side of the interviewer. An interviewee may want to look off. If they’re on the left and need to look away out of habit, they should look to the top right of the interviewer. If they were sitting on the left and staring left, the cameras perspective will look like their staring at the camera even if they’re not. The reason they should look up to the right rather than down is because the cameras perspective might make it look like they’ve closed their eyes. Even if it doesn’t look like their eyes are closed it looks like their looking at the floor, which is never a good look.
Please share this piece and comment with any questions you have for our film-makers.
Our Reforming the Railways programme is very topical at the minute with the furore surrounding next years’ huge rise in train fares. There is also huge debate after Network Rail joined the public sector last month. Our programme examines the current issues within the UK railway industry, with industry leading companies like icomera, Norgren and Furrer and Frey contributing.
So, what does Network Rail joining the public sector actually mean?
British Rail was privatised in 1993, which meant that companies would bid to operate their services as part of it. This was a very costly and unstable procedure. For instance, a train operator could win the contract, but then be outbid when their contract was up. This meant that the future of the rail industry was uncertain and was at the beck and call of the company who won the contract.
This system is a flawed one as the costs of running a public service railway far exceed the revenue that the fares generate. The Government then has to subsidise train operating companies. A privatised railway also allows operating companies to pay out dividends. Between 1997-2012 Virgin Trains paid out £500million in dividends, although they had received a Government subsidy of £2.5billion. So how can they get away with rewarding owners with money that has come from a Government subsidy, which was ultimately funded by the tax payer?
Network Rail moving to the public sector means that they are now accountable to Parliament. In theory this will apply pressure to stop dividends like these being paid. Currently Network Rail is in debt to the tune of £34billion. Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Transport in 2011, voted against these bonuses but chose not to demand action. This was a real pity and could have affected a huge improvement in the UK rail industry.
East Coast went a huge way to prove that publicly owned operating companies could be a very viable option for the UK railways. Since they took over the East Coast Mainline in 2009 they have returned £1billion to the Government. This is despite receiving far less in Government subsidies that Virgin Trains. They have also won a number of industry awards and have a a passenger satisfaction rate of 92%.
So an option for the Government is to wait for each franchise deal to expire and to then return the route to the public. Considering the success of East Coast, and the expensive and flawed privatisation system, returning the railways to the public is essential to the future of the railway industry and the economy in general. This could also curb the huge increase in rail fares under the coalition Government.
Our Reforming the Railways programme will be broadcast on Tues 30th Sep, 7pm, on Sky channel 212. Please comment below and if you enjoyed this article please share it on the social media links below.
Crowdfunding has quickly become a massive industry, which was worth around $5.1billion in 2013. This figure will only increase as more and more businesses, organisations and entrepreneurs move to Crowdfunding to fund their ventures. I look at some of the most effective crowdfunding campaigns.
New and exciting products and inventions tend to capture people’s imaginations and can really make for profitable crowdfunding campaigns. Of course the product alone, however amazing, isn’t enough to persuade people to prise with their valuable cash. A crowdfunding campaign is only as good as its video as this is what really lures people in.
Pixelstick is a brilliant example. The short video brilliantly and engagingly demonstrates how the product reimagines the opportunity of light painting. In layman’s terms the product allows users to capture moving light through long exposure photography and manipulate and combine it with your own images.
In 90 seconds their video shows the visually stunning possibilities that the product allows users to make. It shows the end product before simply explaining what it is and how it works. This makes for a more engaging opening as it excites the viewer immediately and then explains (in a nut-shell) how it works, why it’s unique and how people can help realise the product.
They mention that they have a fully functioning prototype and manufactures lined up and just need funding from the general public to realise the project. This is a comprehensive and clever way to use Crowdfunding. The only thing standing between the creators, Steve McGuigan and Duncan Frazier, and their end goal is the cash that you (the general public) can give them. People love the idea of helping a brilliant new product or technology being created and they also offered a range of enticing rewards to donators. For instance a $250 donation will guarantee you one of the first pixelsticks to be made.
They raised $628,000, which far exceeded their $110,000 goal!
The Tile App is another example of a new product capturing people’s imagination and more importantly their donations. This is a small key-ring that can be attached to valuables and tracks their whereabouts. So the frantic morning search for your keys or wallet could be a thing of the past.
This is a great example of finding a universal problem and creating a simple product which solves the problem. Simplicity is the key to great crowdfunding campaigns and business in general.
The Tile earned $2.6million from their 49,586 backers on their crowdfunding campaign. The sheer volume of backers, who were each rewarded with the product, has caused huge shipping delays. By huge I’m talking around a year, and by this time the market has been flooded with similar products, which are trying to tap into this market.
3Doodler is mainstream, portable 3-D printer that they have re-imagined as a pen. 3-D printers are all the rage within manufacturing, either small-scale or industrial scale, and finding a way to recreate the effect of a 3-D printer in an affordable way was a stroke of genius.
Wobbleworks are the company behind 3Doodler, and the product allows people to draw 3-D structures. The pen works by letting you draw with quick-drying, heated plastic that solidifies almost instantly. This brings to life any doodle you draw and creates immediate and distinctive sculptures.
Again they had a catchy video, which showed the possibilities of this product before issuing their call to action. They raised $2.4million, far outstripping their $30,000 goal.
I think the reason for this crowdfunding success, was how they allowed anyone to achieve the effects of a 3-D printer for a very affordable $99.
Finally, and closer to home for us Brits, was indie film Third Contact’s campaign to be premiered at BFI Imax. Director Simon Horrocks made Third Contact using one camera for around £4,000. The quality of the teaser trailer and the stills, made the tiny budget very impressive, which inspired people to donate.
Also, securing the UK’s largest cinema screen for the premiere was a massive fillet. This crowdfunding campaign successfully raised its £15,000 goal. The premiere was also screened globally online, with a live Twitter feed available for the Q&A afterwards.
I interviewed Simon Horrocks at the time for ONIN London about his proactive Twitter campaign, in which he spent months starting conversations on Twitter about the campaign. There were also a series of enticing rewards available to donators.
I think all of these crowdfunding success stories show the need to make people feel part of something exciting and worthwhile. You need a very strong, engaging video that shows the potential of the project and quickly explains what you will gain from donating. Also, if you can find a universal problem that you are able to solve with donations, when you’re well on your way to crowdfunding success.
Do you agree or have you got other crowdfunding stories that you’d like to mention. Please comment below or Tweet us and we’ll get back to you. Please share this post on the social media links below if you enjoyed it.
At Collaborative Media we have a wide range of professionals in our filmmaking team. Some have degrees and masters and others are self-taught. I asked some of our team to pass on their thoughts about film-school and how they got into the industry. Please do comment with any questions and we’ll get back to you ASAP.
Shane (John) Fennelly– Filmmaker
I never attended film school, and I almost fell into film, really. I always had a great interest in film, music and the combination of both since I was very young. During my MA in Visual Anthropology at Manchester University we were strongly encouraged to use visual and aural mediums such as film, photography, music and soundscapes as a means of research and representation. Through this I developed the skills to produce video and also got the opportunity to express myself creatively whether it was through music videos, documentaries or corporate videos. For anyone, like myself, who was never formally trained in film but have an interest in shooting films, it’s worth taking chance to get involved with it. If you’re unaware of what everyone else is doing, what you produce might just be totally original, maybe. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else now.
Film school was great as it gave me an opportunity to actually use professional video and film cameras (yes, film cameras, 8mm and 16mm) as well as editing equipment. We had the opportunity to try everything, from filming and editing to animation and screenwriting to live TV studio mixing.
Even though I did work on every film that I could and got nominated for the Sky scholarship programme, it sometimes felt like I could have gained more skills while the time and opportunities were there. Many people argue that you could teach yourself everything and use the money you spend on university on making your first feature film, but I don’t think that would have really suited me at the time.
Film school was great but no matter how much you do work, nothing really prepares you for working day in and day out, working with new people in new places on new projects and finding yourself working on things you could never have imagined liking when you were still at university.
I finished university nearly 3 months ago and was lucky enough to leave University with an interview for a camera operator and editor job lined up for the day after. I was successful and I started the role here at Collaborative Media, a TV production company.
I went to study film because it was a subject that I thought was very free and open, as it would give me the creative freedom to make the films I wanted to make…This wasn’t the case, as at University there were limits, restrictions and modules with guidelines that you have to abide by. However, this taught me a lot about deadlines and about the fact that in this society you have to conform in all types of institutions.
After the 3 years of studying, I saw that many of my fellow students now work in a completely different field than what they studied in. For instance, a friend of mine studied business but he has written a feature length film on the homophobia within premier league football, and has gained funding for the project. It just goes to show that you don’t need to study film to make films. Film is an art form and you can’t teach art. You can teach techniques, aesthetics and you can study the history of film all the way back to the start, but film is subjective and speaks a thousand meanings. The key is passion and dedication, and as long as someone has the urge to express how they feel, they can make film!
The journey to becoming an experienced film maker is long and you need to keep learning and developing your skills through increasingly demanding projects. I’m always watching films, analysing the techniques used, studying and practicing myself through the work we do here and my own short films.
Anthony Crossland- filmmaker
Full Sail University (Orlando, Florida): Film Studies
When film started it was a trade that people learned by working at a studio. Cinema advanced when intellectual graduates of film schools started to revolutionize film in the 1960’s and 70’s.
I had always wanted to make films as a director. Besides writing ideas down, playing with a cheap video camera and editing on windows moviemaker, I had no idea of how to get a job in the film industry. I almost studied computer science at college. I knew computers would pay the bills but the market was being over saturated and it wasn’t creative. I was encouraged to first do a small college course where I could make a short film.
I learned the basics here and then decided to expand my knowledge of film at University. Normally a film school is either more about theory based or in my case more hands on with equipment. I think more hands on is good because you learn as you film and you can study films by watching them which I did in my spare time as I’m a film lover.
In University I learnt all aspect of the industry, from set construction and make up to producing and basic animation. I think when you hear of directors who have dropped out of film school, what you don’t realize is that they’re limited in knowledge and roles. Quentin Tarantino is a famous film school drop-out and he is a very good director but I think when he made Reservoir Dogs, his first film, he only knew how to do his role.
There are some aspects of the industry such as editing, which are more difficult to learn in general and film school helps. It can also help you by letting you learn different aspects but it’s not always a necessity. In the past 5 years camera technology has changed so much, making everything more affordable.
With the internet expanding holding all sorts of information, a keen filmmaker would only need to go to University for the qualification. With it becoming easier to load films onto the internet through Youtube or Vimeo, there is even more content and competition out there. To stand out from the competition, a qualification in film school can help, as it shows some dedication. However, you really need a great show-reel, which displays your best work.
This programme centres on the challenges and responsibilities the UK transportation industry faces.
This took us to Bracknell in Berkshire to interview the folks at Telogis. Telogis provides software to enable a more efficient and safer management of fleets of vehicles. They cater for fleets of all sizes and have offices throughout Europe and America.
Their SAAS (software as a service) provides up-to-date information to help a Fleet Manager monitor and manage a mobile team. This includes telematics, route-planning, real-time work order management and mobile integration, all on one platform. So in layman’s terms, this allows companies to be in firm control of their fleet and to introduce and monitor safety and performance levels.Industry magazines say that safety and cost reduction go hand in hand, which emphasises the importance of SAAS within transportation.
The software sends reports if these levels aren’t met, for example if a driver were to exceed speed limits, leave the defined route or brake excessively. The software ensures a safer, more efficient and profitable fleet team.
On arriving at their stylish offices, we were put at ease and served a tray of biscuits, breakfast bars and cups of coffee. This was an excellent start to the shoot, until I spilled my coffee everywhere, cueing awkward Hugh Grant-esque apologies to all concerned. In my defence, the drinks mats were unusual to say the least, like giant polos without sufficient surface area to steady my, soon to be, upended beverage.
Spilled drinks aside, this was an excellent shoot. I interviewed Telogis’ General Manager Sergio Barata, and was impressed by how articulate, detailed and fluent his answers were. He clearly knew his stuff, as did his colleagues. After interviewing Sergio at length, we filmed 1 minute interviews with several of their other employees. These were recent graduates, who all seemed to be enjoying their roles at Telogis.
With all the interviews and footage safely captured we headed back to London to start editing.
If you’re interested in the services that Telogis offer, have a look on their website here.
Last week our production team had the pleasure of shooting with Gail Porter, the presenter for our Career Focus TV site. This site is a step-by-step guide into a new career, with entertaining and amusing videos.
On a baking hot Tuesday morning, our production team was excited to meet Gail and see her bring our careers scripts to life. We set up the camera, green-screen and autocues and were ready to roll when we met Gail. Sometimes it can be awkward meeting someone who’s well-known. I once met Simon Beaufoy, who won an Oscar for writing Slumdog Millionaire. Whilst, chatting to him, he passed me his Oscar statue, and I somehow managed to dislodge the plating on the bottom of it.
Thankfully meeting Gail went a lot better, and the only thing that was quickly broken was the ice. She is a bundle of energy and immediately entertained us with an anecdote about someone she encountered that morning. After introductions were made, coffee drunk and mics were readied, we started filming.
Gail presented the scripts which we’d written for our programmes and then we moved onto the scripts for our Career Focus TV site. Gail’s energy and enthusiasm was infectious and we all had a lot of fun on this shoot. Her unique blend of humour, energy and soft Scottish tones brought each script to life. At one stage the creative juices were flowing so much that we were all reduced to giggles by the word “franchisee”. A little strange, but normal things can sometimes become very funny when filming.
After quickly getting over our giggles, Gail told us about how she got her first job within the media. She got her Mum to film her spinning around in a circle and then edited the shot into another one where she was dressed as Wonder Woman. She then sprinted at a fence, and instead of flying over it like Wonder Woman might, she clattered into it head first. This slap-stick video caught the eye of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, who are well versed in weird humour, and they hired her.
So it goes to show that sometimes it pays to have a unique approach. Gail also impressed the importance of having a varied skill-set when working in the media. For instance, currently she is writing a novel and preparing to star in comedy play 69 Shades of Black. For tickets and more information about 69 Shades of Black visit their Facebook page here
As we moved into the afternoon Gail’s energy levels only seemed to increase as she presented most scripts in a single take. A very productive afternoon left us with all the footage we needed, and lots of extra material that gives a fun and interesting insight into the UK media industry.
We’ll be sharing short videos of Gail, so keep an eye out.